The Austin Chronicle

Behavioral Shifts, Anyone?

By Matt Martinez, February 25, 2008, 4:05pm, Newsdesk

At the risk of beating people's heads in over the environment, please slow down on the highways and keep your tire pressure where it needs to be – because according to Michael Webber, a UT engineering professor who has made his living on technological breakthroughs, it's officially getting greasy out there, and we can't depend on green technology advances to turn the situation around 180 degrees.

Webber spoke to another sell-out crowd at UT's Welch Hall Friday night about potential solutions to this country's dependence on oil and alternative fuel options for the future.

Look, all the alternative fuels widely reported on have faults. Corn-based ethanol requires as much energy to produce as it eventually yields and may expedite soil erosion. Delivery of mass amounts of hydrogen is inefficient and we can't "mine" all the hydrogen we would need to make a difference in our energy needs. Wind is intermittent, solar power is very land-intensive, and nuclear power could potentially kill us all – so folks, turn a light off when you leave the room. It may be the best shot we have at this point.

According to Webber's data, if America's drivers kept their tires at recommended air pressure levels, we could save 250,000 barrels of oil per day. If the nation scaled back the speed limit to 55 on the highways and drivers obeyed, that's another million barrels per day.

Webber said that industry, for the most part, is ready and willing to do what it takes to scale back on the use of fossil fuel, but that politicians (as per the norm) are bringing up the rear in the urgency department. Aside from screwing us, now they've taken to cooking us.

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